With Roberto Heras' then-record fourth win now officially gone up in smoke after his positive EPO test last September, Denis Menchov has been elevated to the position of Vuelta 2005 champion. The Rabobank rider was presented with a symbolic jersey at the end of the team presentation in Málaga on Friday evening, receiving a warm applause from the large crowd gathered there.
If anything, the Russian appeared less than enthusiastic, declining to wear the jersey on the presentation stage. "Nothing changes...it is only a statistic," he told Cyclingnews before the ceremony. It was unclear as to whether he was talking about the overall result or the fact that he didn't get to wear the jersey at the race end in Madrid last September.
Menchov won a stage and finished sixth overall in this year's Tour de France. He has stated in recent days that he consequently expects to be less fresh in this year's Vuelta, and said last night that he was unsure as to his exact form. "I hope I feel good. We will see. I felt good in San Sebastian but the Vuelta is a different story....I will have to see how things go. Between the Tour de France and this race I have been trying to keep my form. We will soon see how that went."
When asked about who he thought his main rivals would be, 28 year old Menchov was of the opinion that it was too early to have a definitive list. "It is a big group, no? Like always, it is the case in all the big Tours. You have Sastre, Valverde, Pereiro, Vinokourov, Mayo... many riders."